East Penn Press

Friday, December 13, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCKThe Hornets’ Jaeden Amato (23) and the Emmaus defense kept Whitehall scoreless in the district title game. PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCKThe Hornets’ Jaeden Amato (23) and the Emmaus defense kept Whitehall scoreless in the district title game.

Defense dominated in districts

Friday, November 8, 2019 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

It’s often said that defense wins championships. In football, coaches talk about the defense needing to be strong as the key component of winning. In baseball, it’s all about pitching and keeping the other guys off the base paths. It’s much the same in soccer.

A good defense can make up for any potential shortcomings on offense and keep a team strong enough to win a championship. Fortunately for the Emmaus boys soccer team, there’s a solid offense helping to drive the team, but wins begin and end with the defense.

The Hornets, who are 21-3-0 on the season, have wound their way through the postseason with gold medals in the EPC and District 11 tournaments. Now, they’re chasing another gold as they start play in states.

Defensively, Emmaus shut out all three teams it played in districts and wrapped up conference gold with a shutout. They Hornets have shut out their opponent in five out of six postseason games and have outscored opponents 15-1.

Junior goalkeeper Chris Buck has the best view of just how good the defense has been this season. He believes that much of the success of the team comes from the guys on the defense in front of him, who limit the opportunities for teams to even challenge him for goals.

“They’ve been huge, vital,” said Buck. “They’re totally on top of everything and they make it so that I don’t even have to do my job that much,” said Buck, who needed to make just one save in the title game against Whitehall. “My defense was doing a great job all night and it happened that one time they sneaked through.”

Emmaus last two opponents (Stroudsburg and Whitehall) have combined for just two shots on goal. Against Whitehall, Emmaus faced off against Kresstoph Whittick, one of the faster and stronger players in the Lehigh Valley. Whittick had just one decent look at the goal all night and put a shot off the post.

The nearly impenetrable defense and an offense that finds enough goals to win games has made Emmaus strong all season long. Even during a three-game losing skid brought on by a rash of injuries, the defense was still relatively strong, allowing just five goals in the three games.

“These kids have all bought into what we wanted to do with them and they’ve made sacrifices and they’re selfless,” said Hornet head coach John Cari. “There’s no doubt that chemistry was a big factor this year.”

So, it begs the question: is this one of the better teams that Emmaus has ever had? Senior Jake Groh believes that it’s definitely the best that he has played on as a varsity player.

“Yes, 100 percent yes,” said Groh. “We’re more together than we were in previous years. We play together well. We pass the ball well and we’re overall just a good team everywhere on the field.”

Cari, who is in his 15th season at Emmaus couldn’t disagree with Groh, who is one of two players who have played varsity all through their high school years. A.J. Febbraro is the other.

“It could be,” said Cari of Groh’s assessment. “It’s the best team they’ve been on and to win the league and districts, I’m really proud of them.”

Part of the determination into where this team ranks will come in states. During Cari’s tenure, Emmaus has gone to states six times and advanced out of the first round just once, back in 2006 when it beat Souderton before losing to Neshaminy in the quarterfinals.

The Hornets have reached the quarterfinals five times and made it to the finals just once, back in 2000 when they took home silver medals after a 1-0 loss to Allegheny in overtime.

“For me, I really believe that we have a chance to go far in states,” said Buck. “I think we’re playing well right now and we’re pretty healthy and we can definitely make a run.”